The cyberspace is not always sunshine and roses. The online world can prove to be dangerous if you are not careful. One way to defend this menace is to equip your browser with extensions or add-ons that warn you away from suspected sites. This week’s column presents some security add-ons available for the Chrome browser. If you choose to use a different browser (like Firefox) most of these extensions will be available in that browser as well.
When you click on the extension’s icon, it will display all the detected trackers with coloured sliders (see screenshot).
If the ads are green that means they don’t track you and if they are red you are in a danger zone.
In addition to ‘Privacy Badger’, the EFF offers another extension called HTTPS Everywhere, which makes sure your web browsing is encrypted most of the time.
The add-on checks if the page you are about to visit has an encrypted counterpart using ‘https’ and if it finds one, then the extension will redirect you to the secured link.
The extension Web Of Trust alerts you if a site is deemed unsafe by their community of over 140 million users. The extension rates websites with colour coded symbols based on the site’s reputation and trustworthiness. This is yet another means to protect yourself from dangerous sites with malicious content. When you access a site, the extension icon will turn green if it is a safe location. You will find the extension more valuable when you invoke a web search. On the search results page, with each of the links, you will see a colour coded symbol to the right of it- green for good sites, yellow for doubtful ones and red for bad ones. Of course, the rating is based only on the users’ feedback and not necessarily be perfect- so use it with some caution.
Avast Online Security
The extension ‘Avast Online Security’ is another extension that works using the crowd-source philosophy. When you do a search, sites with green bubbles are deemed to be safe, those in grey with a question mark have no rating and if you find one in red that site has been deemed to be unsafe.
When you are on a website you can select the Avast icon where you can rate each site with either a positive or negative rating and below that it will also show you the trackers used for that site, which you can allow or block (see screenshot alongside). If you are bothered about online security you can give Avast online security a try.
Another security tool worth a look is the extension ‘Disconnect’. The extension allows you to block individual sites that track you.
When you select the ‘Disconnect’ icon, you will find the different trackers that are blocked automatically (screenshot below).
Below that you will see categories for advertising, analytics, social and content.
If they are check-marked and green, it means they are blocked. If for some reason you wanted to unblock individual trackers, all you have to do is uncheck them.
Yet another means through which you can add an additional layer of security to your browser is to use ‘TrafficLight‘, a security app from Bitdefender. The app runs in the background and scans any websites you visit for malicious elements. If only a part of the website is malicious then that part alone will be blocked. This means, you are not totally blocked from going to the site, but you will not get exposed to dangerous locations. By default, it also scans search results, but you can turn off this option if you wish so. It will also let you know if there are any tracking elements on the site.
Chrome Connectivity Diagnostics
Google has a huge safe browsing infrastructure to control and catch malicious sites. In this regard, you may take a look at the Chrome app, ‘Chrome Connectivity Diagnostics’ , which allows you to run a simple test of your Internet connection quality through Chrome. So, if your Internet access seems to be slow or not working, you can run this and obtain the diagnostic report that tells you where things are going wrong: whether certain ports are blocked, any issue with your DNS servers and so on.
Behind the Overlay
You might have experienced the following quite often: you visit a web page that has something you like for, but all of a sudden you find a pop-up, blocking you from seeing the page. It is really frustrating because you can see the information right there, but they will not let you read the whole thing. Well, the extension ‘Behind the Overlay‘ could rescue you from this predicament Simply click on the extension icon and it will instantly remove the overlay.
Quickly enable/disable extensions with Extensity
When you start your browser, all active extensions integrated with it also will be loaded automatically. Each of the live extensions will consume some computing resource. You may have installed several extensions, but may not be using all of them always. Naturally, as each extension consumes some computational resource, loading extensions that are used less frequently is a wasteful exercise. This is where the add-on, Extensity, which lets you enable/disable extensions dynamically, comes in handy. The extension lets you turn on or off any add-on anytime you need. When you click on the icon it will show you all the extensions currently integrated with Chrome and just click them to toggle them on and off. Normally to disable extensions, you have to navigate to the ‘extensions’ page in the Chrome settings, find it in the list and then click the checkbox. The advantage of ‘Extensity’ is that it lets you skip all these steps.